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Fulham look toothless - S. Telegraph

last updated Sunday 10th November 2002, 8:23 PM
Aston Villa (1) 3 Fulham (0) 1
It may be too early to say Aston Villa have turned the corner but after five Premiership matches without a win, three points will rarely have tasted sweeter for manager Graham Taylor.

A game in which his team started wretchedly ended with a fully deserved victory and, what is more, three goals from his previously punchless team.

This was Villa's first Saturday home game in the Premiership this season, a fact not lost on Taylor in his programme notes. "Don't tell me the game hasn't changed," he bemoaned. Yet Villa Park was only two-thirds full, most likely due to Villa's recent lack of goals. Villa had scored only seven times in the Premiership and none of the six strikers in Taylor's first-team squad had netted more than once, a statistic the manager admitted had become a psychological barrier.

Still, creditable away draws at Manchester United and Blackburn, followed by a Worthington Cup win at Oxford, should have put Villa in good heart against a Fulham side with only one Premiership victory on their travels.

Fulham Dutch International keeper Edwin van der Sar
Edwin van der Sar
Having posed minimal threat to the Fulham goal, Villa carved out the game's first two chances in quick succession and scored from the second in the 18th minute. Ian Taylor's rasping drive from 20 yards was turned round the post by Edwin van der Sar and from the corner, Taylor headed the ball into the path of the unmarked Juan Pablo Angel, whose header was half-held by Van der Sar before nestling in the net.

It was the Colombian's first goal of the season and for a brief moment the lacklustre atmosphere turned into something resembling excitement. Jloyd Samuel almost added a second before, in the dying moments of the first half, Steve Marlet scored for Fulham, only to be ruled offside.

Fulham, who had looked toothless in the last third apart from a couple of half-chances, took off Martin Djetou at half-time and replaced him with Junichi Inamoto. Almost immediately, Jean Tigana's side nearly got back in the game, Steed Malbranque sidefooting the ball over from close range.

Fulham striker Luis Boa Morte
Luis boa Morte
It could have been costly but from the very next move, the scores were levelled. Luis Boa Morte turned the leaden-footed Steve Staunton before keeping his balance and dispatching a fine shot into the far corner.

Now, at last, the game opened up and with Fulham looking a far more incisive team, Inamoto stung Peter Enckelman's hands with a fierce snapshot. Yet just as Fulham threatened to take control, Villa regained the lead midway through the second half with the goal of the game. Gareth Barry stormed down the left and when Oyvind Leonhardsen missed his cross, substitute Marcus Allback, who had replaced the injured Angel at the interval, ran on to the loose ball and rifled it home.

Again Fulham rallied, briefly and to no avail, and again it was Villa who scored, Leonhardsen rounding things off with a crisp volley after the visitors failed to clear Allback's dangerous header into the area.

Just to complete Taylor's day, the Holte End even decided to chant his name. It must have sounded especially sweet after recent calls for his head.

Aston Villa:
Enckelman, Delaney, Samuel, Mellberg, Staunton (Johnsen 76), Barry, Taylor, Kinsella (Hitzlsperger 62), Leonhardsen, Angel (Allback 45), Dublin.
Subs Not Used: Postma, Moore.

Booked: Leonhardsen, Taylor, Allback.

Goals: Angel 20, Allback 66, Leonhardsen 83.

Fulham:
Van der Sar, Finnan, Melville, Goma, Brevett, Malbranque, Djetou (Inamoto 45), Legwinski, Ouaddou (Stolcers 72), Marlet, Boa Morte (Sava 78).
Subs Not Used: Taylor, Knight.

Booked: Melville, Boa Morte.

Goals: Boa Morte 51.

Att: 29,563 Ref: A D'Urso (Essex).



Source S. Telegraph by Andrew Warshaw

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